Before all of the awards, accolades and before all of the Hollywood lights, when she was growing up, Octavia Spencer had trouble reading. Due to dyslexia, the words were jumbled, and she would have to start reading the same passages over and over again, losing interest.
But a teacher figured out that mystery stories might be a good way to keep Spencer engaged in reading.
“I’m reading today because of Encyclopedia Brown,” the 44-year-old Oscar-winning actress told students from Geneva Middle Schools North and South at an assembly.
Her love of mysteries; her love of movies by martial-arts actors Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee; and a fondness for science experiments inspired her to write the “Randi Rhodes Ninja Detective” books for middle school readers. The series of books have become popular to both kids and parents alike.
Spencer, who won an Academy Award in 2012 for her role in “The Help,” explains how a little girl who at first didn’t like to read, came up with the book.
“I wanted to write about the things that I love,” Spencer said. Her novels include prompts for the reader to try things, such as dressing incognito, hiding a secret message in an eggshell or writing in code. The young heroine of the books has a black belt in tae kwon do.
“Encyclopedia Brown was my first boyfriend, in my mind,” admitted Spencer recently on The View. It was those kinds of creative mystery books like that that kept her interest and even got her excited about acting.
Even now, Octavia struggles a little with her dyslexia in her new role on a television series. She admits that the turnover time for television is a lot faster than movies and it takes her longer to read scripts. But she doesn’t let that stop her.
Read more about Spencer’s battle with dyslexia and symptoms of the disease at BlackDoctor.Org.
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(Photo: Michael Buckner/Getty Images for USC Shoah Foundation)